What are some good resources for writers?
Dan wrote and said, "I hear you've taught a couple classes for colleges, and I know you do the occasional conference. For those of us who can't get to another state to hear you, what would be some resources you'd recommend for writers?"
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer is to attend a good writing conference. They have conferences all over the country, usually featuring experienced writers and publishing professionals. It's a great way to meet people, ask questions, and connect with others who are also trying to make it as writers. There's undoubtedly a GREAT conference happening somewhere close to you in the month, as the conference season kicks off (for example, I'm attending the Left Coast Crime conference in Sacramento in two weeks). You'll rarely regret investing in a good conference.
Another thing to consider is a critique group — a chance to sit down with a small group of fellow writers and compare notes, critique each others' work, and talk books. It offers you perspective from others, and it gets you talking writing with people — something many writers have discovered is hard to find. You can often connect to them online, and many local bookstores will help authors in the area come together in order to network and critique one another. A third resource is one of the online writing groups — one helpful such gatherings is the Yahoo group "The Writers View," but there are numerous others. Most of these groups discuss writing and publishing, and many have a panel of experts to bring some wisdom to the discussion.
If you're already involved in some of those things, let me suggest a writing course at your local college. It can be a lot of fun to take a literature course or participate in a creative writing class, and the instructors can often give new insight into your work that can help move your craft to the next level. When I was in college, I got to take a class from Ursula Le Guin, one of America's foremost fantasy writers. It was a wonderful experience, and one you can't get just anywhere. Check to see who teaches college courses near you. Another idea is to take a look at the world of writing by subscribing to Writer's Digest Magazine or The Writer, and carefully checking out what's new in the "writing" section of BAM or Barnes & Noble. There are more new resources being created every few months, so if it's been a year since you looked at books about the craft, by all means check out the latest.
Two more thoughts for you… If you're a nonfiction author, the folks at www.bestsellingauthor.com have re-released their CD set, "Become a Bestselling Author: Lessons from an Anonymous Publishing Giant." This is like a master's level course in publishing — a freelance writer interviews the president of a major publishing house, who gets into the mechanics of publishing, the psychology of editors, and the methods for creating a great proposal. They cover things like "landing a literary agent" and "generating free publicity" and "conducting great book interviews." It's a wonderful resource, but it's not cheap. I think the cost was about $300, but now that they've re-packaged it and are re-releasing it, they're selling for something like $149. Still spendy, but WELL worth the investment. (And no, I don't work for them.) Check it out.
If you're a novelist, by all means go to my friend Randy Ingermanson's site www.advancedfictionwriting.com. Randy gives away some great information (make sure to look at his free e-zine and his famous "snowflake" method), and also sells his Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 classes as downloads or on CD. All of his stuff is well done, and he's one of the few people out there who has something realistic to say about fiction writing and marketing. And Gina Holmes' "Novel Rocket" site has some of the best mix of interviews and insights into the writer's life.
Of course, if you really want to move forward in your career, consider a writing career coach. I blogged about what Lisa Samson is doing last week — her company, Luminary, offers manuscript guidance from one of America's great novelists… what more could you want? And, of course, by doing a bit of hunting online, you can discover a number of others who offer similar assistance.
Hope this helps. What are the resources all you like to recommend?